Ina Fried

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If at First You Don’t Succeed: Google to Hawk a Nexus Phone Again

Google is getting back in the business of selling Android phones direct to consumers.

The search giant had sold the Nexus One directly to consumers over the Web, but got out of that business back in 2010.

On Tuesday, though, Google is announcing that it will start selling an unlocked version of the Galaxy Nexus via its Google Play online store. It will be under a new “devices” section, though for now the Samsung-made phone will be the only device for sale.

Google will sell the HSPA+ version of the Galaxy Nexus for $399 without a service contract, though the phone contains the radios necessary to work on both T-Mobile and AT&T networks.

Sprint and Verizon sell their own LTE-capable versions of the Nexus directly to consumers.

At the time it got out of the business, Google acknowledged that most U.S. consumers prefer to buy their phones from a carrier. Carriers typically subsidize the phones in exchange for a two-year contract.

“Certainly, a lot has happened in the last couple of years,” Jamie Rosenberg, Google’s Director of Digital Content, said in an interview. “We’ve seen in the market that consumers [have] an increased desire for … the flexibility that comes with an unlocked phone.”

Google was also panned for its customer service when it sold the Nexus One, but Rosenberg said the company has since added a phone-support team that is part of the Google Play store. Google will support both sales and technical questions on the device, with the ability to connect customers to Samsung if necessary.

“Because of that, we think this will be a very different experience for consumers and has different motivations for us as well,” Rosenberg said.

The last time around, Google had ambitions to turn the traditional carrier business model on its head. Rosenberg said Google understands that most people will continue to buy direct from carriers, though it still thinks its store can be meaningful.

While the device store is currently focused only on Galaxy Nexus sales, Google is creating a home to sell other kinds of devices. The company is widely expected to start selling a Nexus tablet in the not-too-distant future.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald